‘She has everything I’ve been looking for’: para champion unveils exciting new ride

  • Para multi medallist Natasha Baker has found a new ride that she will aim for the World Equestrian Games (WEG), after 10 months of searching.

    The nine-year-old Don Schufro mare Mount St John Diva Dannebrog arrived at Natasha’s base two weeks ago, and Natasha plans to begin their international campaign at the Roosendaal CPEDI3* in May.

    She’s just an absolute dream horse, and takes everything in her stride,” enthused Natasha, whose London and Rio Olympic gold medallist Cabral (JP) was put to sleep suddenly in February 2017 after contracting a bacterial infection.

    I’ve been looking for a new horse since April, and I was pulling my hair out as I couldn’t find anything,” explained Natasha. “Between Christmas and New Year I was desperately sending messages to all my Facebook contacts thinking there just had to be a horse out there. Emma Blundell said she couldn’t sell Diva as she is Mount St John’s top broodmare, but asked whether I had considered a lease.

    “The first time I went up to the stud to see Diva it felt like I’d been riding her for months. Mum and I whispered, “She’s perfect” to each other. We had wanted a gelding, certainly not a chestnut mare, but she’s so sweet and relaxed — really cuddly.”

    The chestnut Hanoverian mare has been one of the Mount St John’s top broodmares in recent years, with a 2015 colt by the Furstenball son Finest sold to Charlotte Dujardin at just one week old. Diva has produced several embryo transfer (ET) foals since, and is in foal via ET to Vitalis and Charmeur this year.

    In between breeding, she has competed successfully up to medium level, including finishing second under Lucinda Elliott at the 2017 winter championships at elementary.

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    Diva has the most incredible trot and a really good walk, which reminds me a lot of JP and the way he used to flick his toes in walk,” says Natasha, a grade III rider who has no use of her legs while riding.

    “We’re working on getting her voice activated — it takes a while but she’s getting better every time. We’re doing lots of work on the lunge using voice, and we’ve ridden through our para tests now.

    “I hope to get out competing at the start of March and target a place on the team for WEG. I’m so excited as I had almost resigned myself to another year of missing out — I missed competing so much last year, and just being with the team.

    It takes a long time to build a partnership, but she has every quality I’ve been looking for. And as she’s a gold colour, I’m just hoping she likes gold medals!”

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